Partnership FAQ



What is Ohio Schools to Watch?

Ohio Schools to Watch (OSTW) is a recognition and capacity-building program designed especially for middle grades schools. OSTW is a partnership between the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Middle School Association, Otterbein University and the Ohio Federation of Teachers. OSTW is the state affiliate of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform’s National Schools to Watch program. As a “State to Watch,” Ohio recreated the National Schools to Watch program to address its unique context.

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What is the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform?

The “National Forum” is an alliance of educators, researchers, national associations and officers of professional associations and foundations committed to promoting the academic performance and healthy development of young adolescents. The National Forum, which developed the original Schools to Watch criteria, serves Ohio as a source of inspiration and expertise. Additionally, the National Forum convenes the annual National Schools to Watch conference in Washington, D.C. in June. This conference is open to both OSTW’s and those that aspire to become Ohio Schools to Watch. 

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What does it mean to be an “Ohio School to Watch?”

The Ohio Schools to Watch program seeks to recognize a small number of diverse, high-performing, growth-oriented middle grades schools to demonstrate what all middle grades schools are capable of achieving.


The OSTW program identifies high-performing, middle-grade schools that are:

  • Academically excellent—challenge all students to use their mind well;
  • Developmentally responsive—sensitive to the unique developmental challenges of early adolescence;
  • Socially equitable—democratic and fair, providing every student with high-quality teachers, resources and supports; and
  • Organizational structure is in place to enable aforementioned three characteristics.

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What are the minimum eligibility requirements?

The OSTW program seeks high-performing, public middle grades schools in Ohio that are constantly "on the move" toward higher achievement of all students. School must satisfy the following minimum eligibility requirements to apply to be an OSTW:

  1. Contain at least one of the following grade levels within the school: grades 6, 7 or 8.
  2. On the most recent building report card the school must earn a "C" or better on the Overall Value-Added or Progress Component. For appllications submitted for the 2014-15 school year the Overall Progress Component letter grade from the 2013 building report card will be used to determine eligibility.

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How is Ohio Schools to Watch different than other recognition programs?

OSTW is designed especially for the middle grades. OSTW is both a recognition and a capacity building program. Designations are earned based on achievement across the areas of academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and school organization. While OSTW is not a grant, the designation is associated with a number of benefits.

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When are applications due?

Application materials are due the middle of October; see the application and OSTW webpage for exact date.

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Why should our school apply to be an Ohio School to Watch?

The foundation of the OSTW program (and application process) is the Self-Study tool containing the National Schools to Watch criteria. OSTW and the National Forum believe that youth in the middle grades are capable of learning and achieving at high levels.  To that end, the National Forum identified a set of selection criteria to describe high-performing schools that serve students in the middle-grades.  To begin the application process, a school must convene a school learning community to investigate their achievement in the areas of academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity and school organization using the Self-Study. The insights revealed through the use of this tool are powerful and rewarding.

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What if we begin the application process and realize we are not ready to be an Ohio School to Watch?

From the moment you begin working with the Self-Study tool, you are increasing your school’s capacity for self-improvement. Even if you are not ready to be designated a School to Watch you can receive valuable feedback on your school’s application. In the event your application is of great interest to the readers, you may receive a site visit from middle grades experts that will provide you with additional feedback. Even schools that receive the designation begin a process of school improvement with the support of OSTW. At every stage, Ohio Schools to Watch are building capacity to increase student achievement.  On the other hand, after studying the results of the Self-Study, you may decide to wait a year or so to apply

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What process is used to determine if a school is designated an Ohio School to Watch?

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform crafted a vision that describes the characteristics of high-performing middle grades schools. With this vision as a basis, National Forum members then developed a set of rigorous criteria that could be used to identify such high performing schools. These became known as the Schools to Watch criteria.

The STW criteria themselves are important, since they represent a set of rigorous, research-based indicators against which schools can measure their own performance and set improvement benchmarks. In addition, they serve as the basis for identifying exemplars at the state level.

Using a rubric fashioned after the national STW criteria, OSTW Support Team members evaluate applications for “potential” to serve as designees. It is important to note that schools do not compete with each other for designations, but rather they compete with the rigorous criteria used to identify high performing schools. If your application is of great interest to the readers, you will be selected for a site visitation. A group from the larger OSTW Support Team will spend a day in your school further evaluating your application and your potential to serve as a high-performing, growth-oriented middle grades school that will demonstrate what all middle grades schools are capable of achieving.

Support Team members include diverse, talented, experienced professionals working in the areas of middle and high school improvement, adolescent literacy, special education, English learners, equity and diversity, college-access, citizenship education, middle grades teacher education, urban reform, secondary school policy and more. Members work in various capacities (middle school teacher, middle school principal, assistant superintendent, etc.)

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What if we apply and are not designated as an Ohio School to Watch?

There are many ways you can participate in Ohio Schools to Watch regardless of whether or not you receive the designation. You may participate in the Schools to Watch program by:

  • Attending Schools to Watch information and/or professional development sessions;
  • Visiting an Ohio School to Watch; and
  • Participating in the National Schools to Watch Conference.

OSTW strongly encourages you to reapply next year. Nationwide, it is not unusual for a School to Watch to have applied to the program more than once before receiving the designation. As OSTW is both a recognition and capacity building program, our hope is that you continue to find the Self-Study/application process and overall programming instructional and inspiring.

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If we are designated as an Ohio School to Watch, what is our role in middle grades reform? What are

If you are designated as an Ohio School to Watch, you agree to participate in all aspects of the program including, but not limited to, recognition celebrations, induction and orientation, professional development and school improvement consultations, visits from others who seek to improve their schools and documentation of Ohio Schools to Watch practices. A designee recognizes that being an Ohio School to Watch demands increased attention to high, dynamic and sustained performance. A designee welcomes the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience with others and works as a mentor-missionary to accelerate middle grades reform in Ohio.

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What benefits are associated with being designated an Ohio School to Watch?

While being selected as an Ohio School to Watch provides others with a representative model of how effective middle grades schools work, it also provides the receiving school an opportunity for new reflection, professional development and consultation, and OSTW community involvement via the state and national network of Schools to Watch.  An Ohio School to Watch is recognized as a forward thinking, achievement and equity-driven organization committed to the development of both young adolescents and adult learners.  Being designated an OSTW simultaneously makes the building a National School to Watch!

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Once designated an OSTW, does a building automatically maintain their status in the future?

An Ohio School to Watch must continue to meet minimum eligibility requirements each year with the exception of AYP or Value-Added in years two and three; failure to meet AYP or Value-Added requirements for three consecutive years will most certainly result in loss of OSTW designation.  At the end of years one and two an OSTW must respond in writing to two questions relative to school improvement since time of designation.  At the end of year three, to be re-designated, a school must again complete the Self-Study and report (written) the results, plus host an OSTW re-visit. 

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What if I still have questions?

Please direct all questions/inquiries to Dan Stacy,, (614) 466-5458.

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Last Modified: 12/8/2021 4:55:44 PM